To prepare for demo day, I've decided to use iPG with M-x doctor (she's from a small, not widely known country that has some native naming eccentricites and is in constant war with their two lettered neighbors), the CEO at my new health startup Psychologr. Obviously I'm the technical cofounder and she's the ideas person, so I let her do the talking.
iPG: Who might become competitors?
M-x doctor: What do you think?
iPG: How big an opportunity is there?
M-x doctor: I'll ask the questions, if you don't mind!
iPG: What do you understand that others don't?
M-x doctor: Can you elaborate on that?
iPG: Why will you succeed?
M-x doctor: I could ask the same thing myself.
iPG: Who would be your next hire?
M-x doctor: I would appreciate it if you would allow me to do the questioning.
iPG: Would you relocate to Silicon Valley?
M-x doctor: Why do you say?
iPG: How much does customer acquisition cost?
M-x doctor: I have asked myself that question many times.
So, the tactic seems to be stay firm, and let him know who's asking the questions.
If someone's looking for a fun, kind of silly weekend hack, I've always thought it would be lots of fun to feed PG's essays and comments into Megahal or something like that that is more advanced than M-x doctor.
The person who is perhaps the brightest  person I've ever met would - if this is a fair simulation - be rejected by YC. When answering a question he often won't even have begun to reply after fifteen seconds. I wonder how often YC rejects people such as that.
 I mean this in a particular way: capable of extraordinarily deep insight very, very rapidly. Just not 15 seconds rapid.
This page really has a different lesson than what you think. The lesson is not "respond quickly"; that only shows that you can think on your feet. While that's useful, you don't build a business by thinking on your feet. The real lesson is that you should have already answered these questions. Before you try to get funding, you should already know who's going to use your product. Before you launch, you should know who your competitors are. Before talking to anyone you don't know about your product, you should be able to describe your product quickly.
You're trying to convince YC to invest in you. Why would anyone want to give money to founders who haven't thought about these questions?
Right - none of these questions are difficult to answer quickly and concisely or to prepare for - if you have a valid business model. Applying for investment without a business model you understand through and through is like applying for a job without a resume.
Oh no don't get me wrong - the site is great and I expect it'd be very useful for any entrepreneur, whether seeking investment or not! I'm commenting on the GP's post, which implies some people aren't capable of answering questions this quickly because they have a different mental processing style.
The reality is they need to realise they're approaching people with little free time who have to quickly sort the wheat from the chaff, and asking basic, targeted business model questions like these are a fair way of doing so.
These types of questions aren't meant to make any sort of statement about the person's worth; they are there to determine (a) if the person, at this point in time, is investable as an entrepreneur at the most basic level, i.e. do they understand the basics of business, and have they done their homework with respect to their business; and (b) whether the results of that homework suggest a business potentially worth investing in.
A person with positive scores on both these accounts would be able to easily answer these questions in the time allocated. For the remainder, either they don't have a viable business model (fail at (b)), or they aren't familiar with business (fail at (a)), and that's why the site is valuable -- it gives the latter experience validating their business model before the pitch, which may otherwise cost them a missed investment opportunity.
(That being said I didn't like some questions: "Tell us something surprising you have done" or "What's the funniest thing that has happened to you." Have a few beers with me and all kinds of stories will come out, but I don't have a reverse lookup for my experiences -- my mind goes blank when I'm asked questions like these! That being said, it's good to be aware they might be asked, and to at least prepare in some way to respond.)
I don't think he would be rejected, at least not for slowness of thought. If he were applying to YC with an idea he had thought about deeply, the answers to the questions in this simulation would be mere cache lookups, requiring negligible CPU. Only in the case of a cache miss would he have to think very much, and even then one or two cache misses probably wouldn't be enough to sink his application, especially considering how good the YC partners are at detecting deep intelligence.
Having a well thought through business plan is the main thing, the filler words are a secondary issue.
Obviously someone with a solid business plan who speaks cautiously is in a much better position than a smooth talker who is selling vaporware. That's the value of the YC group, they have their priorities determined and they don't get taken for a ride.
I won't disagree that he is competent, but at the YC talk in New York, his public speaking was filled with filler sounds where it seemed he was nervous to talk in front of a large group of people (even if that was not the case).
Not sure if you've already seen this, but he wrote about his thoughts on speaking and writing . He does admit that he isn't the best public speaker but puts more value in content rather than presentation in these situations.
This sounds like MBA advice and is good, general business practice, however highly intelligent people capable of extraordinary things often do not act in accordance with these rules (likely because they are PHDs and not MBA students). I imagine this stuff is only on the surface and PG and others are able to evaluate the depth of a person and what they are truly capable of (or maybe not I've never met them).
Because you want to persuade them? When you speak someone's language, using similar posture, vocabulary, style, and being attentive and tuned into them, they're more likely to react positively and buy what you're selling.
That's stupid advice. Why should I always match my tempo to somebody else?
Because it's an important element of building rapport. And rapport is important if you want to get someone on "your side" in a discussion.
for the same reason that you're probably not going to try to match mine
But people usually do just that. It's a fairly well established thing, that people in a conversation usually eventually match each other's talking pace. And it generally feels awkward when you're talking to someone and that doesn't happen.
We are not affiliated in any way. We have come across them before and we feel the name and market is different enough to not be a problem. As for the logo, it's kinda difficult to make a fire (as in, blaze) look different.
Our name story is that, our original project name was just "stack" but stack.com was taken. After struggling for a new name, a historic chimney stack local to us caught fire and the newspaper headline was "Stack Blaze".
IANAL, but I have had to deal with trademark issues and as I understand trademark law you would be considered to be in exactly the same market. The difference between, say, pet food and hosting would be considered relevant, not between storing backups and storing PHP websites.
Also, regardless of whether you did so or not, the logo really does look like a slightly masked copy. Do an image search for "blaze" to see a number of possible treatments on that theme that would not result in such a resemblance.
I am less sure about the name, but the difference is swapping "b" with "st", so I wouldn't be surprised if that would also be considered trademark infringement.
Anyway, it depends how you understand "not a problem"; You might feel morally justified, but I believe that legally you are on pretty shaky grounds. On the other hand, Backblaze would have to kick up a fuss for that to actually matter.
Are questions such as "How will you make money?" answerable in 15 seconds? I tried it with my personal concept, and even with trying to remain concise and to the point, I can't answer that question without it becoming a string of words that would not pass as a sentence.
He applies next round and gets an interview. He surreptitiously brings a boom box. When asked what it’s for, he says “please, hold your questions till the end of the interview”. After all of the questions have been asked and answered, he slams play and rips off his shirt to reveal that he’s been covered in strawberry Pop-Tarts and rainbow Spandex the whole time.
Verily, this is the hacker equivalent of professionalism.
Thanks for sharing this Colin, I originally wanted to do something more fun & pg-like for the iPhone as well but I decided against doing fancy stuff in favor of actually prepping for the interview. I actually only published the app to the AppStore quite a bit after our interview.
This is both stimulating and depressing at the same time. As if there's only one correct way of thinking and communicating. Why conform yourself to someone else's nature? You're not Steve Jobs, and you're not pg, you are yourself -- forget the pro-tip and be yourself.
You can be yourself after you've spent 3 to 5 minutes getting through these questions qualifying yourself as somebody worthwhile getting to know better. Investors are busy people with thousands of proposals crossing their paths every year - they need a quick way to disqualify the proposals that haven't been thought through properly.
Given the nature of this conversation, I'll throw in a gratuitous plug for "pgbot" a half-baked "AIML implementation of pg" that I cooked up one night in response to something somebody said here (or on #startups).